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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Thursday 17 Jul 2014
Mobile working is an HR issue – not just a headache for IT

Mobile working is an HR issue – not just a headache for IT

HR's strengths can ensure mobile working and BYOD are a success for businesses. However, technology issues aren't just the realm of the IT department, if they're taking up people's time then it's an HR issue too.

Many companies I speak to now recognise that mobile working is part of business as usual. The demand for collaboration across departments and locations means that it’s an issue they can’t avoid. 

There is also a wider recognition that mobile working is actually a business issue first and an IT issue second. Technology’s important, of course, but not as much as how it affects employees and their personal productivity, which drives corporate performance – and this plays to HR’s strengths. 

Leaders are starting to recognise the benefit of staff being given a choice of devices in order to perform better. At KPMG, for example, while we haven’t gone down the bring-your-own device (BYOD) route yet, we have just rolled out a programme giving employees more laptop and smartphone options. 

So with laptops, staff can now choose between three different models and with smartphones, there’s a choice between three different brands and operating systems. It’s a clear recognition of the fact that employees value choice and that we recognise different people have different requirements and preferences. 

As I see it, there are huge practical implications to BYOD that HR is well positioned to deal with. Take, for example, when an employee is given a computer or smartphone by their employer. They’ve usually got a helpline for any technical issues and there are policies on what to do if their corporate device is lost or stolen. 

I’m not saying that BYOD isn’t a good option for some companies – but there are definitely questions here that HR should be asking. Questions such as, who has responsibility for solving technical issues? Is it something that employees need to deal with themselves? If so, how would it affect their personal productivity if they’re trying to solve a technical problem when they’d otherwise be working?

Not dealing with these issues upfront can put employees in a difficult position, which is why HR needs to be involved. Other questions are also receiving greater HR attention, for example, how companies can help employees for whom mobile working results in isolation or disconnection. 

It’s difficult to get the balance right in a world where many of us are working away from the office more often. But I would argue that it’s HR’s job to work with the business and ensure that this balance is achieved, so an organisation can be more agile as a result.

Ingrid Waterfield is director KPMG People & Change practice